“It’s human nature to wonder” – Conor Oberst
Do you ever wonder what happens out in the bush between the usual game drive times? Do you ever wonder what animals come past a watering hole to drink and at what time during the day? These are questions I often ask myself yet don’t go and figure out the answer to. One winters day, from 06:00 to 18:00, I settled that state of wondering. That burning desire to know what the answer may be has finally been satisfied.
I decided – now that we have the time – to go and sit at a watering hole in the middle of Londolozi for 12 hours. Yes 12 whole hours straight. I packed a cooler box with some water and drinks, I made myself two delicious cheese and tomato sandwiches, I had a table, a chair and a note pad and off I set. I arrived at Shingalana Dam at 06:02 in the morning (2 minutes later than I wanted to be), and only left the same spot at 18:02 that evening.
I found a perfectly sheltered spot where I could see most of the watering hole and I started setting up for the day. Before I even had time to settle in, there were lions calling in the distance. Would they come for a drink? I could only wonder!
About an hour in, the first animal came to the watering hole. It was not the lions, but the two wild dogs that are currently denning on Londolozi. They were out on the hunt and did not spend too much time at the water. Next came along a journey of Giraffe that were very hesitant to drink due to my presence, but as soon as 2 male impalas walked straight up to the water, they followed suit.
Time went by before I had a strange feeling something was sneaking up on me. It still amazes me to the day how quiet elephants can be when they walk. Today was no exception, as a large elephant bull snuck up behind me. I only became aware of him as he dipped his trunk into the icy water, 15m away. We were both startled at the sudden sight of one another and so he moved off to drink on the opposite side of the waterhole.
The bird life was abundant with lots of doves, starlings, lapwings, herons, and blue waxbills. Families of warthogs came and left, a herd of wildebeest drank and then settled in the clearing not too far away, and a lone buffalo bull appeared for a short drink before he ran off. No longer was I wondering, but really just observing.
There were periods of the day where there was no activity around the water’s edge, but when the animals came to drink, they came in numbers. I had expected to see elephants but I was pleasntly surprised when a herd of 40-odd came for a drink. With so many elephants in the herd, they tend to drink and move away quickly and so as soon as the last elephant arrived the first few started to leave.
I had decided that I had to stay at the water all day but that was tested a few times especially when there were monkeys alarming not too far away. I had the urge to pack up and quickly see if I could find what had triggered their change in behaviour, but I waited at the water hoping that the whatever it was would come for a drink. Nothing did.
As the sun set at around 17:30 I had some time to reflect back on the day. How amazing it was to sit there alone and become part of nature’s movement. I stayed in one spot all day but nothing that came to drink hung around. Were they wary of my presence or could it be the fact that they arrived with a purpose, fulfilled that purpose and moved on?
At least I no longer wonder what moves to and from the water during the day and what happens while we are not watching.
But there is always more to wonder about…
Filed under Wildlife
There is just something so exciting about satisfying ones curiosity. It sounds like it was almost a kind of 12 hour meditation – something we could all benefit from given the opportunity.
Great blog Greg. I am too impatient to sut at a qaterhole and wait. In Kruger we might drive to a waterhole in tje morning or afternoon. If there is nothing we move on, or take avfew pics of the animals that are around. That has all changed camping in Botswana. Most if the waterholes are very closeto the campsite. You can sit indef your awning and watch the waterholevl all day. We went last year when it was extremely dry. At Khutse game reserve, Molosi camp the elephants broke the water pipe leading to the waterhole. They congregated around the pipe that was left where the water came out. They were fighting all day over the water coming out. Keeping all the other animals away. At sunset when the solar pump stopped working they moved away. Very early in the morning the kudu and oryx came to the pipe. At Khutse pan waterhole we had the lions, springbok, Oryx, kudu and Steenbok. Lots of birds aswell. In Mabuasehube the vultures came down to the waterhole everyday. The best and interesting sightings were when we put the trial cam up at the waterhole in yhe night. Springbok, wildebeest, oryx, kudu, iwls, spotted thicknee, leopard, brown hyena and the most surprising wild dogs. We thought there are are more animals visiting the waterhole at night than in the day. I must say that in the day it is extremely hot and the animals liebin the bush to preserve energy. It can be a chalenge to sit at a waterhole in the night. Maybe next time. Would love to hear what you’ve seen.
Greg, I loved all the photos🤗
Great idea! I would also like to spend a few hours at such a waterhole. Maybe in a hide so that the animals don’t see you. And maybe at night??
Anyway, it’s a great article.
It could be interesting (perhaps) to do this for consecutive days to see if there are patterns of behavior!
I too often wondered if I sat in one spot long enough would sightings come to us rather than us having to find them? Like if we just hang around a group of Impala would Lions suddenly appear at some point. Great perseverance to sit at the watering hole all day and see what happened.
Really enjoyed this Greg thanks. I too grew up in the Lowveld and on a regular basis my Dad and I would leave White River at 4.00 armed with our packed cooler and head to Numbi gate for its opening (this was in the mid 1960’s). Depending on our mood, the weather or time of year, we would aim for Shithave Dam or Transport Dam and spend our entire day there, watching game come and go and the birds. We loved it even though some days weee a little barren of game.
Nice photos; thank you for that.
What a fun thing to do! I am impressed at the wide variety of wildlife that came to drink – as well as by those who didn’t. Interesting what this shelter in place has led us to think and do…
That was lovely. I can understand your curiosity.
sounds like a wonderful and exciting dayGregg. we should probably spend a bit more time pausing at waterholes while on Safari. Hope you are well and safe. Victoria
Very interesting! Thanks for committing yourself to this and following through!
Stunning! I have been a faithful reader of Londolozi Blog since 2014, from 16,000 km away (Arizona, USA). The blog is always inspiring, but this is one of my favorites. With so many human problems in 2020, it is reassuring to see these beautiful animals going about their normal day. I look forward to more of Greg Pingo’s work.
Very cool story Greg. Is this really your first story?
Waterholes are magical. How wonderful to spend a whole day observing the ebb and flow of animal activity and just ‘being’ with the sights and sounds. What a great experience. Loved reading this. Took me right there. Thanks Greg!
Different, Greg. and very interesting. Funny how the animals came and went so quickly after drinking. I suppose that’s normal. It must have been a peaceful and wonderful time for you. Nothing so peaceful as looking at a pool of water anyway in the silence of the Bush. Then so many sightings! Hope you enjoyed your cheese and tomato sandwiches! You must have developed a hunger! Wendy M
What a great way to spend a day. Definitely meditative as you stayed at your post focusing on the task at hand. Thanks for sharing.
I don’t think I’ve ever sat at a waterhole and been bored, there is always something interesting going on.
What a wonderful idea to sit at a watering hole and watch the comings and goings over the course of a day. I imagine The who’s a d what’s change on a daily basis. It would be interesting to leave a GoPro for a week and see who the daily “regulars” are and who just visits occasionally! Thanks for the great blog!
Greg. It would be great to see a part 2 to this story by setting up camera traps and spending time during the dusk to dawn portion of the day.
Beautifully written and photographed. Keep it up.